There has been quite a lot of discussion on the online gaming forums about how the secret goal cards in this game are very important and possibly unbalanced. Some appear to be much easier to accomplish and upon reading the rules, I was inclined to agree. Armed with this info and repeating the dire warnings of others, Ed and I sat down a little apprehensively for our first go at it along with fellow explorers Mark and Mike.
This is a dressed up card game in which you are buying ships to send off on expeditions for victory points. To raise the necessary money, you will also be sending your ships on trade voyages. On your turn you can do two of four possible actions – purchase ships from a display, buy a trade contract from those available, assign ships to a trade contract or expedition or take money from the bank. Ships come in certain colors and values which have to match the trade contracts and may or may not match the expedition (more points if the color matches and the sum of the ships cannot go over the number on the expedition). Ships that go on trade voyages are tied up for a duration of 1-3 turns (player’s choice) and earn more money for longer voyages. The ships go back into the players hand when they come back, while ships assigned to expeditions are there for the duration of the game. The expeditions are worth varying points and score twice during the game for each ship assigned to it. The tricky part of the game is the secret goal cards which are randomly dealt at the start of the game, one to each player. These are bonus points that are awarded at the end to that player if he achieves a certain condition, with the points being higher for each trade contract completed. The numbers of points are scaled depending on the difficulty of the goal.
Mike drew the dreaded difficult goal card which required him to own all the ships on expeditions to get bonus points. Unfortunately, his initial trade contracts that he was randomly dealt required red ships and there were none in the display for purchase. This was quite the hindrance and his strategy was to immediately try to start filling up the cheaper expeditions with ships. We knew exactly what goal card he had!
Mark had what is perceived to be the easy goal card with which you get bonus points for getting at least one ship on an expedition.
My goal card required me to get the majority of ships on expeditions and Ed needed to own at least half the ships.
I quite enjoyed how the game played. I got into a bit of a rhythm with assigning ships to long trade voyages and setting up to do another one in the meanwhile. On the turn when my ships arrived back home, I’d use some of the cash they earned to place all of them on a single expedition, often securing or nearly securing the majority there. It was quite tense toward the end with Ed and me spoiling each other’s plans. With the exception of Mike, the scores were quite close. I pipped Ed by two points. Mark was ten points behind me, but if he’d completed just one more trade contract, he’d have been right up there with Ed and me. Unfortunately, Mike with his impossible goal card trailed by about forty points below me. He had only been able to complete a single trade contract even though he’d claimed three expeditions, not an easy thing to do with Mark plunking down ships everywhere willy-nilly for his goal. We discussed it afterwards for a bit, but never came to any conclusion. Like any obsessive gamer I’ve been mulling it over since and wonder how he would’ve fared if, after he’d gotten a few expeditions wrapped up, he’d worked completing short, cheap, trading contracts while getting a ship out here and there on the more valuable expeditions just for the points. I’m dying to play the game and get that goal to try and see what I can do with it. If it turns out to be more balanced than it initially appears, it’s going to make a great lunchtime game with a bit of heft squeezed down into a short 45 minute game.
- Last edited Wed May 2, 2007 3:23 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue May 1, 2007 11:27 pm
Nice report Susan.
Pretty much the same happened to me last night as Mike. The trade contracts I drew were both yellow and expensive, with no matching ships in the purchase row. As a result, no opportunity to make money early and you get forced into buying into the cheap expeditions. Later in the game it becomes very tricky to be the only investor in an expedition. I, too, only managed one trade contract - my second was about to go when the game ending hourglass was drawn by the player before me.
Yes, it needs another play to try it differently, but I'm not convinced.